Tag Archives: identity

The Fictive Kin Identity and The Importance of Being a “Bro.”

Yah, I give it a couple years before I'll be the short one.

Everyone has pet peeves, whether it’s people who wear socks with their sandals, drivers who don’t use a signal to turn, or that one student who feels the need to prolong class time by asking stupid questions. You know who I’m talking about. As for me, I hated it when guys would come up to me and ask, “Hey, what’s up bro?” First of all, I’m not your “bro.”  We’re not even related; I do have a name, you know. It’s Gio. Use it.

In college, it was bound to happen. Every guy has the potential to become a “bro.” Now, I’m not talking about the Urban Dictionary definition, which defines a “bro” as  “obnoxious partying males who are often seen at college parties.” I’m talking about the commonly used greeting of a male to another male in order to indicate a sense of friendship. After hearing it so often, I found myself using it. I use it in my daily speech when I speak to another guy around my age. I even use it so much, that perhaps, I’m someone else’s pet peeve. Little did I know how the word would be essential to my survival, to my process of grieving.

You see, when you lose two siblings, your identity also changes. It just has to; you’re forced to. I was the oldest of three, then two, and now I’m the “only child.” Is that what I call myself now? An only child? It is, after all, fact. An “only child” is one who has no siblings. That’s what I am now, right? Yes, and no. I’ve grieved over the lost of my siblings, but I am not sibling-less. And if you’re going through what I’ve gone through, you need to understand that.

Sociologists have a term for it: fictive kin. Thanks to Wikipedia, we know that a fictive kin is simply “giving someone a kinship title and treating them in many ways as if they had the actual kinship relationship implied by the title.” Now, I should get used to the practice. I am, in fact, Asian. And Asians are notorious for indicating a familial relationship when there is no genetic or marriage ties. In most Asian cultures, especially in Indonesian ones, you would call an older male and female who are around your parents’ ages and are close friends of theirs as “uncle” and “aunt.” Their children would be your “cousins.” Let’s just say it was confusing growing up, keeping track of which of my hundreds of “uncles” and “aunts” were actually related to me, and which of my “cousins” I could date.

We're really well-dressed for this wedding.

Fictive kins relationships are essential for one’s survival. One such example of its importance can be found in American history. During America’s slavery period, it was common practice for slave owners to separate slave families in order to control them. Parents would be separated from their children and siblings would be separated from each other as they were divided to different plantations. In an act of human survival, to maintain that human sense of family, it was also common for strangers to become a family. An older slave woman would take in a slave child as her own. Slave children would call each other as “brother” or “sister.” Fictive kin relationships provided slaves with a symbolic family, as each person supported one another.

Yes, we're "related." All Asians look alike, right? Maybe 3 out of the 5 in this picture do.

You see, saying “bro” makes perfect natural sense for Christians. If we’re all part of God’s family, then we’re all brothers and sisters in and through Christ, His Son. As the greeting goes: Hey brother from another mother. And I guess, that’s how I’ve chosen to survive and to maintain my “older brother” identity. Yes, by societal standards, I am every bit an “only child.” But in a larger and deeper sense, I have a lot of brothers and sisters. They may not be my flesh and blood family, but they act in every bit like a sibling should. Do I argue or fight with my “brothers” and “sisters?” Sure, that’s something that siblings do. But we also enjoy each other’s company. And when I find that I need some lifting up when I am depressed, I know my “brothers” and “sisters” are there to help me out, and vice versa.  The result is fictive kinships are relationally deeper than friendships.

As for me, I no longer mind being called a “bro.” I welcome it. I love it. When I hear it, I am not reminded by what I’ve lost–I am reminded by what I’ve gained.  I also don’t need to put a close sibling-type relationship in quotes, as they are now my kin. Maybe you’ve joined a fraternity or sorority and have gained new brothers and sisters–more than you can imagine. Maybe you’re in a college club or ministry and have grown so close to certain people that they’re practically family. Maybe you don’t work with your co-workers, you hang out with them after work and they too, have become part of your symbolic family.

In fact, just the other day I lost an arm wrestling match to my fourteen-year-old brother. And I realized that in a couple years, he will grow taller than me. Just the other day, I saw my eighteen-year-old sister, and I saw how much she’s changed spiritually. And just today, I saw a picture of a New Year’s dinner party. I saw that I’m still the oldest of five brothers.

So how about you? Do you have fictive kin? Are you someone’s fictive kin? What do you do to grieve and survive the loss of a loved one?

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New Year, New Identities

It’s the 3rd day in 2010. I want to wish you a happy new year! My friend Aaron (follow him @AaronisThinking) made an interesting observation: the next time the last two digits of a year will be half of the first two digits is in 201 years (simply, year 2010+ 201 years=the year 2211). So, it’s a great year to be alive. I believe great things will happen this year. And for all those that celebrate the Chinese New Year, it will be the Year of the Tiger. And that means I’ll be turning 24 this year. After all, there are 12 characters in the Chinese zodiac, and your character shows up in increments of 12 years. Makes sense. So this is my year, guys and dolls.

I am excited, and over the last three weeks, I’ve planned on what we’ll be doing this year after careful self-reflection. How can I improve the blog? How are we going to have fun tickling our minds with ideas? And then it donned on me to do something that is only fitting to the name of this blog. This year, we’re going to scratch the surface and explore a series of identities that we take on. How is that different from what we’re already doing? Well, it will be more consistent because this time around, we’ll actively feature the identities. In a way, we’ll be profiling these identities together.

So get ready for this year. Get ready to explore.

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Man Or Woman? Revisited

Semenya on the cover of You Magazine. Photo Credit: Mirror.co.uk

Semenya on the cover of You Magazine. Photo Credit: Mirror.co.uk

A few weeks back, I wrote about South African athlete Caster Semenya, the track runner who had to undergo gender verification tests despite winning the World Championships in Berlin last month due to speculations that she may in fact be a man. The tests caused protests all around South Africa–many complaining that such tests treaded on her human rights. Currently, the intersex community has become one of the most out-spoken protesting group, trying to educate people about intersex and trying to rally support for those who don’t exactly have the XX and XY chromosomes that we tend to identify for the female and male sex. But in the world of sports, such gender verification tests are needed, especially when an extra boost of testosterone  makes a split second difference. And again, these kinds of allegations are nothing new in the world of sports.

The results of early tests are in! According to the Daily Telegraph, a UK paper, Semenya has elevated testosterone levels. However, the testosterone level is still low enough to be accepted under IAAF standards. Keep in mind that these are just preliminary medical tests, and NOT the full test. Those results will come in a couple weeks.

Meanwhile, Semenya is living it up as the cover model for You Magazine. She had a “glam makeover.” How you want to define that or read into that is up to you. I was thinking of doing a poll to learn what others think about Semenya on the cover, but then I realized that would be quite rude of me. Anyway, I think she looks beautiful on the cover.

Regarding the question of gender, Semenya says, “God made me the way I am and I accept myself. I am who I am and I’m proud.”

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 14, 2009:

Just yesterday, The Guardian, a UK paper, has reported that Semenya is receiving counseling for the results of the gender verification tests. The tests revealed that she is indeed a hermaphrodite, a person who is born with both male and female sexual characteristics and organs. But the saga is not over. International athletics officials will deliver a verdict around late November and will not likely take away the medal Semenya won in August at Berlin.

Perhaps Semenya can finally have some peace after having her life become so public so fast. She will definitely need support as she rediscovers her own sense of identity.

Photo Credit: Mirror.co.uk

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My Experience With Two Women

womenatwindow

Photo Credit: Artchive

For most people, Labor Day is spent on the road, whether it’s traveling to Lake Havasu  or San Diego, or driving down to the mall to shop with that great holiday savings. My family is definitely not an exception. We had quite a day spending breakfast together at McDonalds, leaving flowers on my sister’s grave, and driving all the way down to Ontario Mills Outlet store to do some mild shopping (I ended up buying NOTHING!) Then, my mom said she had a surprise for me. She wanted to set me up with two different women. And I, being absolutely horrified of mom playing matchmaker, reluctantly said “Yes.”

We ended up driving all the way to Alhambra. So I was quite surprised that we pulled up to the Renaissance Theater driveway. Walking slowly to the ticket counter, my mom bought some tickets. So I said, “Where are they?” My mom looked at my dad, then back at me. Then, she let out a huge laugh, and said with an Indonesian accent “Surprise!” as she pulled out three tickets. I was dumbfounded–I didn’t understant what she was trying to surprise me with. Then, I looked closer to the tickets and it turned out she bought three tickets to “Julie and Julia.” The two women she wanted me to meet was the movie she had always wanted to watch as a family. If this isn’t an FML moment, I don’t know what is anymore.

So I sat there in the theater disappointed that I was tricked and outsmarted by my mom into watching this chick flick, but relieved at the same time that she hadn’t set me up on a blind date (as some Asian moms tend to do). But as I continued watching the movie, I laughed more than I thought I would. Sure, it’s no “I Love You Man,” and it didn’t have jokes that most guys love (crude homor, violence, etc.) but to see the lives of these two women from two different time periods played out, I couldn’t help but be amazed that it was all based on a true story. Although Megan Fox wasn’t in it,  at least it does have one thing guys love: all the delicious food scenes–after all, it’s the way to man’s heart.

The movie did well portraying the different eras through the costumes and the technology that was present at the time. Take for example, carbon copy and the typewriter back in the 1950s. I am so glad for the copier and the computer and Microsoft Word! And better yet, I no longer had to explain what blogging is to my mother. She now understands what I do! But I definitely recommend this movie to everyone! I think you can also appreciate the challenges that both couples go through to keep a marriage together. It’s very anti-Disney story-book love! Real marriage takes lots of work!

Now Julie (the main character who’s based from a real life persona that wrote the book that the movie is made from) has given me a new passion for writing and blogging. As I continue to write about societial issues being revealed, I’d like to write a little bit more about my identity–perhaps more about my identity as someone trying to lose weight, gain muscle, and look leaner and meaner. You may think that’s a bit self-centered of me, and I have to admit, it may actually be. But I’d like to write about my transformation and my quest of getting back my high school abs. I know others can relate. And just like the main character approaching 30, at my current age of 23, I’m getting a whole lot older and those abs may never come when I hit 30 at this rate. So perhaps others would encourage me along this journey. I don’t know. But that’s what an adventurous journey is, isn’t it? The thrill of not knowing?

I now know for sure that my mom is quite tricky, and quite clever. Perhaps that’s where I got all that from.

Photo Credit: Artchive

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